Nine years before women in the United States could open their own bank account, Barbara Millicent Roberts—better known as “Barbie”—became the proud owner of an open-concept cardboard ranch home equipped with a single bed, television, hi-fi stereo, and no kitchen. Though modest by today’s standards, when Barbie closed on her first Dreamhouse in 1962, the home appealed to children looking forward to the autonomy that comes with having their own space; with no evidence of domestic responsibilities and no space for a husband, the house resembled something that mothers of the era might consider their own version of a dream house.
Barbie would go on to inhabit several other Dreamhouses through the years, with one currently sold every two minutes, according to the doll’s manufacturer, Mattel. Now, after six decades of popularity, she is more visible than ever, thanks to the release of Greta Gerwig’s highly anticipated film Barbie, which hits theaters July 21.
Barbie’s Dreamhouse is also taking center stage in the culture as of late, appearing in the movie, on Airbnb, and on HGTV’s newest competition series, Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge. In each of the four episodes, teams of designers and other home renovation experts transform a section of the two-story, 4,500-square-foot Southern California mansion into Dreamhouse-worthy rooms in the style of Barbie’s fashion and homes from a particular decade. The result is the ultimate lesson in Barbiecore decor and mid- to late-20th-century interior design.
Host Ashley Graham in front of the finished home on Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge.
“Barbiecore transcends the decades and reflects the trends of that time,” says Tiffany Brooks, a 2023 AD100 designer, Barbie Dreamhouse expert, and one of the show’s judges. Though aspects of the style have evolved over the years, she says that, generally speaking, the Barbiecore aesthetic can be described as “Hollywood Regency meets midcentury modern meets color.”
But nailing the style isn’t enough: Whimsical, toy-inspired features are also a must, says Jasmine Roth, expert builder, host of HGTV’s Help! I Wrecked My House, and a contestant on the show. “In the world of Barbie, things are fantastical, larger-than-life is a necessity, [and] trendy is always in,” she adds.